A Great American Family: The Evans of Colorado

John and John Evans III

It is time for another Great American Family post. My other Great American Family posts have primarily focused on families from the eastern seaboard. However, in this post I will be venturing out of New England and heading west to talk about the Evans of Colorado.

Gov John EvansGov John Evans (1814-1897)

It all begins with Governor John Evans. Evans was a successful man before he moved to Colorado. He was a doctor turned public servant that had made his fortune in the railroad and real estate industries. He helped found Northwestern University (and later Denver University) and Evanston, IL was named in his honor. Due to the political connections that he gained through his successful business career, Evans was appointed governor of the Colorado Territory in 1862 by President Lincoln. Evans went west to Colorado, enjoyed the gold rush era of the west, but stayed afterwards using his knowledge of railroads to help Denver become a prosperous city.

Denver banker John Evans Sr.and wife GladysDenver banker John Evans II and wife Gladys.

Denver bankerJohn Evans Sr. at MeetingDenver banker John Evans II at a Federal Reserve Board meeting.

A Neo-Spanish home of Denver banker John Evans Sr.A Neo-Spanish home of Denver banker John Evans II.

The “other” John Evans have kept their family’s legacy alive. Evans’ grandson, John Evans II was educated at MIT. He served as a captain in the U.S. Army and was the Provost Marshall of Colorado. He went on to become the president of the Evans International Company and the president of the Colorado National Bank.  Evans’ great-grandson, John Evans III graduated from Princeton, served on the board of trustees at the University of Denver, and was president of the Evans Investment Company as well as an active realtor. The Evans family and their “Johns” through their business and civic contributions have helped to shape the city of Denver and the state of Colorado.

John Evans Jr. (C), at commencement exercises of Univ of Denver.John Evans III. (C), at commencement exercises of University of Denver.

John Evans Jr. (C), at Denver Univ1John Evans III at Denver University.

There have been other notable Evans not named John. Anne Evans was the daughter of Governor John Evans. She dedicated her life to art, philanthropy, and her family. She was vice president and director of the Evans Investment Company. One of her most famous philanthropic efforts was co-founding Central City’s summer art’s festival and restoring the Central City Opera House. The new generation of Evans such as John Alice Evans Moore, her husband Hudson Moore Jr., and brother-in-law Frank Freyer continue in the family tradition of civic and business engagement in Denver.

Central City opera house.Opening night crowd going into the Central City opera house.

Hudson Moore Jr. and family, at their home.Part of the Evans family, Hudson Moore Jr. and family, at their home.

Hudson Moore Jr., at water project near Dillon, west of DenverHudson Moore Jr., at water project near Dillon, west of Denver.

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

11 Comments on "A Great American Family: The Evans of Colorado"

  1. Michael Rowe says:

    What a fascinating post! One of my Father’s Day pictures on Facebook was a photo of my father with Governor Evans of Idaho. So interesting to learn about the family. Keep up the terrific work on this blog!

  2. oxford cloth button down says:

    @Michael – Thanks, I appreciate your kind words.Sounds like a very cool photo! I always find it so interesting to learn how people and placed are interconnected in regards to history.

  3. Michelle says:

    You are aware that John Evans ordered the greatest massacre against the American Indian in our history, aren’t you? It’s called the Sand Creek Massacre. They ordered all the indians on to a reservation. They went peacefully, were unarmed, and wrapped in American flags when 150 of them were massacred by this order. Two-thirds of the victims were women and children. John Evans was fired from his position as governor from the President of the United States for this atrocity. Perhaps your next blog honoring someone should be about Chief Black Kettle, the leader of these people.

    • Ashley says:

      John Evans never issued an order for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians to be killed at Fort Lyon. In fact, he issued several orders specifically exempting those tribes from any attacks by volunteer militias. It was under his order that they went to Fort Lyon for protection. While away in Washington working with the government on “the Indian Problem” as it was known then, Col. John Chivington came to Fort Lyon and ordered his men to attack. Some refused because they didn’t want to participate in the massacre. John Evans did identify hostile tribes as enemies of the nation – it was during the Civil War and that was the rhetoric of the day – and he did raise volunteer militias to fight hostile tribes. He was by no means a hero and he was asked to step down by Andrew Johnson in 1865, but to say he ordered the Sand Creek Massacre is patently false. By all accounts, it was the decision of Chivington, a loose cannon with a certain degree of blood lust. I recommend this website for original documents pertaining to the massacre: http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/library/specialcollections/Manuscript/SandCreek.html

      • j. c. campbell says:

        Ashley: FYI There were no “militias” involved in the attacks on Cheyennes or Arapahos in Colorado Territory including the attack on the village at Sand Creek. The soldiers were 1st and 3rd Regiment Cavalry, Colorado [U. S.] Volunteers under the chain of command of the U. S. Army and the U. S. War Department of the Lincoln Administration. That is why the U. S. government and the U. S. Army never denied responsibility for the massacre by soldiers wearing federal uniforms. If you’d like to know more come to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Kiowa County and learn more. Sincerely, Jeff Campbell

    • j. c. campbell says:

      Michelle: If you have proof of Governor Evans’ “order please advise what your source is and contact us at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic. We’d really like to see that primary source of information for our history of the site. Sincerely, Jeff Campbell

  4. Michael Rowe says:

    I would have thought it was obvious that OCBD wasn’t honouring the man, but rather fathers in general, and families.

  5. Evelyn says:

    Thank you for including the Evans family in your study. And Ashley, thank you for setting the record straight. If you want to learn more about the family find the book Anne Evans: A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History, The Things That Last When Gold is Gone.

  6. Before all of this, including Chicago, he was instrumental in getting the Central State Hospital for the Insane started in Indiana and was the first superintendent of it.

  7. J Moore says:

    I’m doing some digging on my family history and really enjoyed reading this article. I saw almost all of these photos in our family albums. Thank you for writing this and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  8. Dee - Denver, Colorado says:

    Yes, one-time Governor of Colorado Territory John Evans founded Colorado Seminary, later renamed Denver University, and, for anyone who may be interested in finding out more about the “character” of this man, read the report that was published in 2014–150 years too late, by the school he founded. The full report can be found by going to the following link and clicking on the “Read the committee’s full report” link. John Evans may not have “ordered” the Sand Creek Massacre, but he, as Governor, most definitely did not do anything to keep it from happening, and afterwards, even after the congressional investigation condemned the atrocities, he never acknowledged that there had been any wrong done. He, along with Chivington, defended Sand Creek for the rest of their lives.


    I would also suggest reading the poem on the bottom of the linked page that was written by the great-great- granddaughter of John Evans.

I would like to hear from you